There is something particularly sad about this case, a social worker suspended from practice resulting from problems that arose when she herself was a victim of domestic violence. No doubt there are some gaps in the story, there always is, but on the basis of what has been reported here in Community Care it appears that this social worker has been rather harshly treated.
In a nutshell, “the social worker’s misconduct involved being intoxicated, verbally abusive and obstructive to police who were called out to her home”. She lied to the police by taking responsibility for an incident her partner committed because of her fear of reprisals and had been “subjected to a long period of violence by her partner”.
The HCPC concluded that the social worker concerned “did not have insight into how her behaviour in her private life could damage the reputation of the social work profession” and had not submitted evidence of “remedying her conduct”.
This report from Community Care raises a lot of questions. What is not clear in this report is what is meant by ‘remedying her conduct’.
Does it refer to recognising that being verbally abusive and obstructive to the police (who are fellow professionals) was not appropriate? I can only hope that the social worker concerned would agree that it wasn’t appropriate.
Does it mean ending the relationship? What’s not clear from the report is whether the relationship is still ongoing and what support she (and possibly her partner) has received regarding this relationship, if any. She should have some understanding of the impact of domestic violence on victims (including the children of victims), not least through her training and work experience and hopefully would want to protect herself from continuing to be a victim in this situation. However, as we all know, all the training and knowledge in the world doesn’t make it any easier for the victim to escape from a violent relationship. Considering the high level of stress caused by being in a DV relationship and considering that social work is a stressful occupation I would have thought being on long term sick might have been an alternative, and more caring and supportive option, than suspension (there is no indication whether or not that was considered).
Or does it mean demonstrating how her relationship and the consequences of her relationship is damaging the reputation of the social work profession? This is a challenging one, on which much of the HCPC decision turns. Yet I cannot help but wonder how much it really does damage the profession. There are certainly some who would appreciate knowing that social workers are human and can suffer the consequences of difficult situations, while others might find it a reason to look down on them. It certainly shouldn’t be current behaviour but for it to have been experienced in the past should be seen as valid experience rather than something that damages the image of the profession. I wonder if the panel considered how she would handle a situation of a service user asking her about her own ‘run in’ with the police? It could be used as a discussion point on what is not appropriate and why.
Or does it mean that social workers should not become intoxicated (woe to social workers, police, teachers, nurses, doctors and most other professionals in that case!).
Elsewhere it has been commented that social workers’ lives are no more ‘squeaky clean’ than most people’s. But sometimes it feels as if the message is that they should be. And, social worker or not, short of more information, this report looks rather like a case of victim blaming: a victim of domestic violence she has been blamed for the consequences.